Why Do People Marry?
When people ask the question ‘why do people marry?’, when people think of marriage, most conjure up images of the traditional ‘white’ wedding-
white iced wedding cake-
purity and virtue,
innocence* and virginity.
*A ‘display of the innocence of girlhood.’
But, did you know that marriage was in fact formed from a place of, not love but practicality- for procreation and monetary reasons, and oppression whereby a woman, tied together with her husband in marriage, was unable to be ‘with’ anyone else…
Whereas now marriage is viewed as a declaration of love and commitment among equals, it most certainly hasn’t always been this way. ‘Back in’t day’ marriage was just another way of controlling women in a patriarchal society, upholding the notion that, not only are men superior to women, but that men own women…
Let’s Take A Look Back…
If we look back to the very first examples of marriage, way back in 2350 B.C (about 4,350 years ago, we will see that weddings had very little, if anything at all, to do with love (or even religion), and everything to do with control. How so? Because, through marriage a woman ultimately became a man’s property and, to some extent, arguably still does…
Just think about it… When we marry, we are ‘given away.’ ‘Given away’ as though we are someone else’s property, owned, for which they have the right to ‘give us away’ (father handing over the ‘ownership’ of his daughter to another man)… Because, God forbid a woman be left to do what she wants to do with her life/to have no man to depend on! However would she cope?! (note the sarcasm here).
In the process of ‘ownership’ being passed from father to husband as women are ‘given away’ in marriage, we essentially, as women, surrender our identity.
“By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing.’
Although today more and more women are choosing to keep their own family name when they marry, in the past, this wasn’t an option. The process of getting wed meant giving up your own name to take on the name of your partner, taking on their identity, losing yours.
Denoting ownership and supported by Christian doctrine;
“the twain shall be one flesh,”
a wife taking her husbands family name was a sign of the power he held over her/how she was the inferior to his superior…This also granted men ‘exclusive access’ to their wives body, and is where the idea of rape being ‘impossible’ in marriage came from… In fact, shockingly, it wasn’t until the 1970s that rape was deemed to be a criminal offence between married couples. Prior to that, marital rape was inconceivable, as the husband “owned” his wife’s sexuality, it was stated in both religious texts and legal frameworks alike…
Marriage: An Institution Of Control?
The fact that marriage was historically so centred around control- the ability for men to control women/for men to exercise their power and establish dominance over women, should see it come as no surprise then that same sex marriage was illegal until just a little over a decade ago (in the UK at least)…
When marriage was all about a man controlling his wife, the idea of a man marrying another man, or a woman marrying another woman, how could that work? Who controls who?…
Perhaps rather surprisingly, evidence of same sex marriage, albeit not ‘official’, dates back to the pagan civilisations of Greece and Rome (Homosexuality was common in ancient Greece, e.g., Sappho- 570 BC, Nero- 54AD, as two of the most famous examples), and well documented in prose, poetry, music, and through iconic images on pottery).
Although not legal, homosexuality wasn’t particularly ‘frowned upon’, so long as there was a clear distinction between the more ‘passive’ (i.e., ‘subordinate) partner, and the more ‘dominant’ one (which makes sense, considering that marriage was all about control, as this ensures that one person- the dominant one- stays in control, acting as the ‘man’ in the relationship to which they can exercise their control over their submissive partner who adopts the role as ‘woman’)…
Evidently then, it’s not a ‘man’ problem. It’s not a case of all men being controlling over women simply because they are men, it’s a societal problem. Brought up in a patriarchal society in which they are told from as soon as they’re born pretty much, through the examples shown to them by their fathers, that they should be the ‘head of the house’, the ‘providers’ for the family, it’s inevitable that boys are going to grow up into men with a superiority complex in which they’re of the belief that women are dependent on them, weaker than them, under their control…
Men are not the problem, the social system of patriarchy is the problem. Just as marriage is not the problem, the institutionalised patriarchy it upholds is the problem.
The fact is that marriage itself, the ideas that *should* underpin marriage- love and commitment- that is beautiful. Again, it’s the institution centred around continuing the oppression of women by keeping them inferior to men that is problematic, undoubtedly so.
This isn’t me encouraging people not to marry, as I say in the previous paragraph, what marriage should be about- love and commitment- is beautiful. But, if you’re going to marry someone, then just make sure that you’re marrying them for the right reasons, and make sure that they’re marrying you for the right reasons.
Take his name,
take her name,
keep your own name.
Wear a white dress,
wear a black dress,
wear a suit.
Do whatever you want to do, so long as you marry, not to ‘own’ each other, or to exercise dominance/submission, not to to merge two identities into one, but to better each other. To encourage each other to become more expressive in who you both are, as individual people, to ensure that you never lose sight of who you are. Because, as beautiful as love is, as all-consuming as love can feel when you’re ‘in’ it, at the end of the day, you’re still you. Your own person, the only person who has been, and will be, with you forever.
Why People Should Marry
So, the conclusion; don’t marry to own or to control, marry to love, wholeheartedly (and, to love every moment of loving each other)…
What marriage should actually be about, underneath it all-